The public has been advised to not wash their turkey before popping them in the oven this Thanksgiving or any other time of the year.

Drusilla Banks, who teaches food sanitation at the University of Illinois Extension, told TIME that washing turkey before cooking it could spread the germs lurking on the meat in the kitchen sink or other food. However, the expert also acknowledged the fact that it’s quite challenging to convince the public to not wash their turkey.

“If your mother did it and your grandmother did it, and suddenly the (government) says not to wash your turkey, you may take some time to adjust,” she said.

Germs found in the guts of healthy poultry could make people sick but they are legally allowed to be on raw turkey and chicken. This is because the assumption is that nobody eats their poultry uncooked, and cooking it thoroughly will kill all the bacteria.

Benjamin Chapman, a study author, and food safety expert said that the common instinct is for people to wash raw poultry. Even TV chef Julia Childs was one of the people who said that washing chicken was just a safer thing to do.

But the USDA funded a study that underscores the need to wash raw poultry before cooking. Researchers sprayed raw chicken with a harmless strain of E. coli and watched volunteer cooks at test kitchens.

Those who washed their chicken before cooking ended up spreading the bacteria to their lettuce. But even those who did not rinse the chicken got germs on their lettuce.

Meanwhile, experts said that even after the turkey is cooked, this doesn’t mean that everyone is out of danger zone. To keep the turkey and other leftovers completely safe, experts suggest that they should be refrigerated after two hours.

There are also other opportunities for germs to survive and thrive on turkeys through thawing and cooking. Thawing in fridges is still the best.

Thanksgiving Turkey
You can't miss our fabulous turkey recipe with a unique stuffing that will make everyone asking for more on Thanksgiving! Shutterstock/Alexander Raths

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